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Ignore the lead paint, mold and rats — New York’s public housing is “beautiful,” a top official claimed Tuesday.
At a City Council hearing where other New York City Housing Authority staffers discussed a backlog of almost 100,000 work orders, Acting General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo instead whined that no one was talking about the agency’s “good work.”
“The public doesn’t see pictures of the apartments that I visited where residents have beautiful homes,” Mustaciuolo said.
“They are well maintained, and that is in part because of the good relationship between tenants and the property-management staff. So it is unfortunate that the only focus is on unsightly conditions and the bad conditions.”
Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx) hit back that the hearing wasn’t about “praise” for the embattled agency, which is currently embroiled in scandals over uninspected lead paint and fungus-covered buildings and is struggling to keep rodent infestations under control.
“It’s not about patting people on the back,” said Gjonaj, who previously worked in real-estate management.
“As you know, I come from this world, and I would not have responded to any agency or department with, ‘How can you not focus on all the good work I’m doing and focus on a small problem?’ This is a problem. Legally you are required to correct this condition and make sure it doesn’t reoccur and it doesn’t exist.”
Mustaciuolo’s comments were also met with scoffs and indignation across the city’s public-housing buildings, where the lengthy list of open work orders includes 32,000 paint jobs, 24,000 carpentry jobs and 14,000 plastering requests, according to NYCHA stats.
“Beautiful?” said Frances Noguet, 38, a resident of the Jacob Riis Houses on the Lower East Side. “Nothing beautiful around here . . . He’s patting himself on the back when he should be fixing things. They never fix things on time. The elevator never works. I’ve got elderly parents. They’re disabled. Try getting them up 13 flights of stairs.”
Up at the Morris Houses in The Bronx, Mustaciuolo’s remarks also had the residents in stitches.
“Beautiful homes? That’s a stretch,” said Victor Calderon, 54.
“This one has roaches. That one has mold growing on the bathroom wall. That one’s not getting heat. There’s always something that needs fixing.
“So to say that most of the apartments are fine is painting a pretty rosy picture. I’d like to live in whatever world he lives in.”
Earlier at the hearing, other NYCHA officials echoed their concerns.
“We are all dismayed by the reports of unacceptable apartment conditions — residents living with holes in their walls that haven’t been repaired or repair jobs that are half-finished,” said Cathy Pennington, NYCHA’s executive vice president of operations who came on board last month. She blamed the agency’s failing infrastructure and staffing shortages on being “shortchanged” $3 billion by the feds since 2001.
Mustaciuolo evaded reporters’ questions after the hearing, scuttling off to another meeting.
Additional reporting by Reuven Fenton
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